Just a thought . . . books make GREAT stocking stuffers!

Books are what I AM dreaming of for Christmas! Shown here from left to right: The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau on Kindle, Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn, Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer, and The Sister Queens by yours truly.

Meet Me at The Baltimore Book Festival!

I am pleased to announce that I will be a presenting author at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival.  If you love books and live within driving distance of Charm City you owe it to yourself to participate in this celebration of all things literary.  The Baltimore Book Festival is jam-packed with opportunities to meet authors, learn about the genres that interest you, and (for writers) improve your craft.  During the course of three days more than 200 authors will appear on eight stages.

Here are the practical details:

Dates: September 28, 29 and 30, 2012

Hours: Friday and Saturday, 12-8pm and Sunday, 12-7pm

Location: Baltimore, Maryland, in historic Mount Vernon Place (the closest landmark is The Walters Art Museum, located at 600 North Charles Street, 21201)

Admission: The Baltimore Book Festival is 100% FREE!

I hope to see lots of fellow historical fiction devotees (both readers and writers) at the festival.  If you are interested in meeting me, hearing me speak, and/or getting your copy of The Sister Queens signed, here is my personal schedule:

Friday, September 28th

I will be attending the “Author Meet and Greet” in the Maryland Romance Writer’s tent at NOON (12:00 p.m.)

At 1:00 p.m. I will be on the Maryland Romance Writer’s Stage discussing “Getting the Courage to Write.”  Thinking of writing as a second career?  Always dreamed of being an author? I and my fellow panelists will be providing tips for making the transformation.  Come prepared with questions!

Saturday, September 29th

I will be participating in THREE exciting  panels on Saturday (again, all on the Maryland Romance Writers Stage)

First, at 1:00 p.m., I’ll be sharing the stage with a collection of fantastic authors, including historical novelists Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray, for a discussion of what defines women’s fiction and how it differs from romance.  We will also be offering readings from our latest works and giving things away.

At 4:50 p.m. I will be participating in a panel called “Trends and Readings in Historical Fiction.”  Interested in where historical fiction is headed next (new time periods, the exploration of lesser-known figures)?  Then you won’t want to miss this presentation.

Finally, at 5:45 p.m. I have the opportunity to close out my festival participation with my FAVORITE presentation — Sex and Historical Fiction Novelists.  Is there a trend towards more sex in straight historical fiction these days? What role can sex scenes play effectively in historical novels?  What preconceptions do we, as readers and writers, have about the sexuality of the past, that may not stand up to historical reality?  This panel, which also features the amazing Stephanie Dray (Lily of the Nile, Song of the Nile) and Kate Quinn (Mistress of Rome, Daughters of Rome, Empress of the Seven Hills), rocked the house (or rather the Barnes & Noble) in Northern Virginia in April. If you missed it then you will not want to miss it now.  All three of us will have something to giveaway at the discussion’s end.

(Click here for the full schedule at the Maryland Romance Writers Stage – some SUPER historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance writing talent will be featured)

Hope I’ve tempted you to mark your calendar!  I can’t wait to see you!

Lucky Thirteen – Thirteen Things I am Grateful for on the Thirteen-Week Anniversary of The Sister Queen’s Release

For the superstitious, thirteen is hardly an auspicious number.  And, as those of you who’ve read my blog post at Book Pregnant know, a novel more than three months past its release can start to get lost in the shuffle, leaving its author with a case of the not-so-new-anymore blues.  Call me a cockeyed optimist but I choose to face the thirteen-week anniversary of the release of The Sister Queens with a list of thirteen reasons (in no particular order) that I am grateful to be JUST WHERE AND WHEN I AM.

1.  My day started with this touching shout out from fellow writer Joey Francisco.  Joey reminds us that reading can transport people—even people oppressed by pain and illness—and she challenges authors to “pay it forward” by donating a copy of their work to the book cart at their local hospital.  What a timely reminder of the magic of fiction, and what a fantastic service idea!

2.  Reviewers have been generous.  To date The Sister Queens has received more than three-dozen very positive reviews.  Most recently, The School Library Journal declared:

Word on the street (rather, consensus among historical fiction bloggers) is that this is an author to watch whose book is a page-turner, fast-paced, emotional, passionate, well-written and carefully researched.”

3.  The Fans are FANTASTIC.  I am constantly hearing from new people who love my book and support my writing.  Readers, your notes, direct messages, and tweets mean so very much.  Thank you.  Thirteen weeks on, I am still receiving photos from Queen Spotters around the country.  Got another picture of The Sister Queens lounging on a bed inMaine just this past weekend.

4.  I’ve been invited to be a Presenting Author at the 2012 Baltimore Book Festival.  What better way to spend the last weekend in September?  I will be participating in a number of panels including a discussion of “Trends in Historical Fiction” and (oh JOY) a reconstitution of the “Sex and the Historical Novelist” panel that Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray and I created for our triple-author appearance in April

5.  I hit my all-time high Amazon ranking for The Sister Queens in trade paperback on my twelve-week anniversary!  Looks like buzz is building sales even if The Sister Queens is not a “new release” anymore.

6.  High fives, hand-holding and the occasional shoulder as needed from fellow writers make a solitary profession less so.  I’ve never been in a more supportive profession.  From the marvelous writers whose blurbs grace The Sister Queen’s cover, to the twenty-nine fellow members of my debut author group, Book Pregnant, the past thirteen weeks have been full of fellow writers willing to lend an ear or a hand as I navigated my debut.  Talk about renewed faith in mankind.

7.  Team Sophie rocked the postcards.  Team Sophie is made up of readers who signed on to share their enthusiasm about The Sister Queens.  Their first mission was mailing a few custom postcards to recommend the novel to friends.  Team S, you all made a serious dent in my pile of postcards 🙂 and I don’t doubt for a moment that the buzz you generated caused an uptick in sales.

8.  Book clubs made me feel welcome.  I am now a book-club veteran with both live and skype appearances under my belt (here’s a picture of the Georgia club that provided my first skype date).  A chance to discuss the themes and characters in my novel—that’s like chocolate, red wine and good sex all rolled into one. Bless you book clubs. Bless you.

9.  My wip (work in progress) feeds my need.  Sometimes I love it.  Other times . . . it makes me feel like I am trapped under something heavy.  But the truth is I can’t live without the magical time-traveling rush I get from writing.  So I am happy for my current manuscript which keeps me cocooned in the 16th century.

10.  My family reminds me there are more important things in life than how many words I write each day.  When the muse doesn’t cooperate and I descend from my office grumpy and fershimmeled the faces of my husband and children remind me the day is still a success in other, more important, ways.  And when the muse does cooperate and I forget about making dinner, I am grateful that my family rolls with it (generally) without complaint.

11.  The twenty-five readers who reviewed The Sister Queens on Amazon, and the many more who reviewed it on Goodreads took the time to make a difference.  You have powerful voices and help others make reading and purchasing decisions.  Particularly at Amazon your numbers move algorithms, influencing how often and where my book is recommended to other visitors. Thanks!

12.  Nearly 300 people have “liked” either my book page or my author page at Facebook 🙂

13.  My agent and my editor had faith in me (and in The Sister Queens).  That faith permitted me to step on the roller-coaster that is publication.  It’s been a wild ride so far, but I haven’t thrown up yet! That’s something isn’t it?

Here’s to the next thirteen weeks with all their triumphs and trials!

 

 

Why I Want Books For Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a “brunch holiday.”  I detest brunch.  There is something so very non-committal about it.  Besides, all the best food (not to mention the alcohol to go with it) comes out after dark.  In the early years of being a mother I devoted considerable time and energy in the month of April to oh-so-subtly delivering my anti-brunch message (my husband comes from a Mother’s-Day-Brunch family).  By the time we had two toddlers I’d given up on subtle and had “Sophie hates brunch” tattooed on hubby’s arm.  Let’s face it there is NOTHING relaxing or celebratory about trying to consume a meal in a nice restaurant with two toddlers.  And, crazy as it may seem, I’ve always been under the impression that a gift is supposed to delight and relax its recipient.

Motherhood is not, generally speaking, a relaxing occupation.  Everything is prone to interruption.  Everything.  If you are a mother and you’ve been drawn, shampoo-still-in-hair, from the shower by disturbing sounds from elsewhere in your house—sounds suggesting that either furniture or children are being broken—then you know precisely what I mean.  The TRULY perfect Mother’s Day gift would be an exotic getaway.  A weekend on a beach inBali.  Shopping inParis.  A day at the spa.  Heck, I drive past a Dominican retreat on my appointed motherly rounds, and lately I’ve been thinking a day with the nuns would do wonders for me.  Please note, I am not even Catholic.

The truth is, for many of us, an actually physical getaway is pipe dream.  There are kids to be delivered to and from a myriad of activities (anyone who’s had a “oh my god I forgot to pick up [insert child’s name here]” moment, raise your hand), homework to help with, etc.  And can you just imagine the size of the laundry pile that would await a mother’s return should she actually manage to slip away toBali?

But being a mom is a joy and an avocation.  It’s taught me a lot of things including how to live in the moment.  After two decades of motherhood I know that I need to both treasure and expect my “me time” in small increments.  You have perhaps heard of the twenty-minute power nap?  Well, I have become the master of the eleven-minute sitting-in-the-car-getaway.  And that leads me to books.

Books offer the perfect, portable, getaway.  I may look like I am in the carpool line, waiting for the man with the whistle to call a hundred car engines to life, but I am not.  I am in ancient Rome thanks to Kate Quinn’s Empress of the Seven Hills.  I am in regency England watching a confirmed bachelor-dandy fall head-over-heels thanks to Miranda Neville.  I am spending an afternoon with Catherine de Medici thanks to biographer R. J. Knecht.  I am attending festivities at the Valois court with Philippe Erlanger.  I am discovering a set of sisters from Provence in a secondary research source on Notre Dame de Paris—sisters who will lead me on an adventure ultimately resulting in the publication of my debut novel, The Sister Queens.

The cost of these getaways is negligible (certainly not in the league of airline tickets to Bali).  For the cost of a brunch I’d hate for the five of us, my family can get me a whole armload of books I’ll love and that will fit into my schedule.  Yes, I may get snappish when I am forced to put down a novel at a climatic moment to help find a uniform skirt gone missing, or “check” on someone who has already been in bed for an hour but is still not asleep (you know who you are, son).  But it’s a lot easier to settle back down on the couch and slip back into the French Revolution with Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud than it is to sop up all the water and suds from interrupted tub-time.  When I travel by novel I can get back home from Paris for tuck-in time.  Try doing that by airplane (especially in a TSA infested air-travel world).

So, husband dearest, books please.  Mother’s Day is still more than a week away.  Don’t make me tattoo this on your. . . oh, never mind.

Celebrating with Friends

Everybody knows there is no better way to celebrate success than with friends!  Today I am celebrating the 8-week anniversary of the release of The Sister Queens (hooray).  But I want to take a moment to celebrate how special this day is for two of my fellow historical authors as well.

Today is the 4-week anniversary of Kate Quinn’s brilliant Empress of the Seven Hills.  It is also the 4-week anniversary of Elizabeth Loupas’ entrancing The Flower Reader.  Now I could go on all day about how wonderful these ladies’ books are – but why take my word for it?  Both have received considerable praise since they hit shelves.

Peeking Between the Pages say’s of Kate’s Empress:

The characters in this novel just jump out at you. They have a depth to them and the life in Ancient Rome is described so vividly you feel sure you are experiencing it all with your favorite characters.”

 While Amy at Passages to the Past purrs:

 No one does Ancient Rome quite like author Kate Quinn”

 Damn straight!

 Praise for Elizabeth’s book includes this from The True Book Addict:

The Flower Reader is rich storytelling and its characters are real and interesting.  The historical details were obviously meticulously researched.  Throw in some intrigue and scandal and we have a book that will appeal to all readers, not only fans of historical fiction.”

I hope you’ll forgive me for rounding out this book-realease anniversary celebration with a clip from the newest review of my own book.  The Tulsa Book Review said:

The Sister Queens is historic fiction at its absolute finest. I simply cannot wait to see what this author does next. She’s already won herself a spot on my list of favorite authors. In all of its colorful prose, deep and eccentric characters, and historical brilliance, this book can be summed up with one word: phenomenal. Brava!”

Happy anniversary ladies! And many, many happy returns.

A Little Author Frivolity – Tag & Book Teasers

I’ve been tagged by author, Erika Robuck, whose novel Hemingway’s Girl will be out this September  with NAL (same imprint as The Sister Queens).   To play the game, she instructed me to do the following:

1. Go to the 77th page of my latest book (or wip – author’s choice).

2. Count down 7 lines.

3. Copy the 7 sentences that follow, and post them as a teaser.

4. Tag 7 other authors.

In this scene from The Sister Queens, Eleanor of Provence’s brother-in-law, the Earl Richard, returns to the English royal court furious over the secret marriage of his sister to Simon de Montfort.  The Earl confronts King Henry III during court festivities, interrupting Eleanor and Henry while they are dancing.   Without further ado, here are seven sentences (or thereabouts) from the 77th page of The Sister Queens:

Her welfare?  If that is all that worries you, be done.  Lady Montfort is quite abundantly happy with her situation.”  For the first time Henry looks in my direction.  “Is that not so Eleanor?  Our sister writes to the Queen glowingly of her new husband.”

“This is not a fanciful troubadour’s romance!  It is a royal marriage!  It ought not to be managed by women.”

My Uncle, silent himself, gives me a meaningful look, warning me to hold my tongue.

Now, I’ll tag 7  brilliant authors to give us teasers of their own:

1. Kate Quinn

2. Nancy Bilyeau

3. Elizabeth Loupas

4. Erin Cashman

5. Mindy McGinnis

6. Stephanie Dray

7. Lydia Netzer

Visit their websites in the next few days to get a peek into their latest work and discover who they’ll tag in turn.  Nothing like a little game to start the weekend.

My First Author Appearance! And in VERY Impressive Company!

You’ve read my blog.  You’ve read my book.  Now I’d love to meet you.

On April 21st I’ll be joining the fabulous and talented Kate Quinn (Mistress of Rome, Daughters of Rome, & Empress of the Seven Hills) and Stephanie Dray (Lily of the Nile & Song of the Nile) for a “literary threesome” in theWashingtonDC metropolitan area.

Come on out to hear us discuss Sex, Lies and History, and make the acquaintance of some amazing historical women—Cleopatra’s daughter; a host of patrician Roman women (including an empress and the daughter of a Senator); and, of course, my pair of 13th century Provencal sisters who became the queens ofFrance andEngland.  In addition to a lively panel discussion, all three of us will be signing books.  It’s a triple historical fiction treat!

Here are the details:

Date: April 21st

Time: 1-3 p.m.

Location: Barnes & Noble,Spectrum Center, 1851 Fountain Drive, Reston, VA20190

Authors Stephanie Dray, Kate Quinn, and Sophie Perinot will appear ensemble in Northern Virginia

 

 



 



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